Jets release CB Trumaine Johnson, re-signing CB Brian PooleFILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019 file photo, New York Jets cornerback Brian Poole (34) covers Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Ventell Bryant (83) during the first half of an NFL football game in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets are bringing back cornerback Brian Poole by re-signing him to a one-year, $5 million fully guaranteed contract, agent Drew Rosenhaus told The Associated Press, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano, File)
Johnson was the team's biggest free agent signing in 2018, when it gave him a five-year, $72.5 million contract that included $34 million in guaranteed money. The Jets viewed him as a cornerstone type of player on defense who would team with the likes of young safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye to form one of the league's top secondaries for the next several years.
Instead, Johnson played in only 17 games with the Jets, starting 15, and never lived up to expectations.
The move Wednesday was expected, but New York waited until the start of the new league year to designate Johnson a post-June 1 cut. That saves the Jets $11 million in salary cap space this year, with $4 million in dead money this year and $8 million in 2021.
While they cut ties with Johnson, the Jets are bringing back cornerback Brian Poole by re-signing him to a one-year, $5 million fully guaranteed contract, agent Drew Rosenhaus told The Associated Press.
The 30-year-old Johnson played in only seven games last season, including five starts, before being placed on injured reserve in early November with injuries to both ankles. He finished with 25 tackles, two passes defensed and one interception after entering the season hoping to bounce back from a shaky first year with New York. There was also hope that being reunited with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who helped Johnson have his best seasons while with the Rams, would rejuvenate his career.
He was benched after struggling in the season opener against Buffalo. Johnson returned to the starting lineup three games later, but was inconsistent before having his season derailed by the ankle injuries.
Johnson started 10 games for the Jets in 2018 and had 40 tackles, four interceptions and five passes defensed. But he missed five games with a quadriceps injury and was benched by then-coach Todd Bowles for the team's season finale after he overslept one day and was late to the facility.
Johnson spent his first six NFL seasons with the Rams after being a third-round draft pick out of Montana in 2012. He had his best season in 2015, when he had a career-best seven interceptions and 17 passes defensed with Williams leading the Rams' defense.
The Jets used several players at cornerback last season and will be looking to upgrade at the position through free agency and, possibly, the draft. Johnson, Poole, Darryl Roberts, Nate Hairston, Arthur Maulet, Bless Austin and Maurice Canady all started at least one game.
Poole was the Jets' best cornerback last season in Williams' defense, playing in the nickel spot. He had 62 tackles, one interception he returned 15 yards for a touchdown, six passes defensed and a forced fumble in 14 games, with 10 starts. He missed two games late in the season with a head injury, but returned for the final two.
The 27-year-old Poole spent his first three NFL seasons with Atlanta after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Florida. He signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Jets in free agency last year.
Poole has five career interceptions and five sacks in his four seasons.
The moves come after general manager Joe Douglas opened the free agency period by re-signing guard Alex Lewis and agreeing to terms with former Seattle tackle George Fant and former Denver center Connor McGovern.
The Jets did not make qualifying offers or minimum tenders to three restricted or exclusive rights free agents: linebacker James Burgess, cornerback Arthur Maulet and defensive back Bennett Jackson. All three are now unrestricted free agents. Burgess started 10 games at inside linebacker last season, and Maulet started the last six games he played.
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